High school football: Morgan, Grantsville class of 3A North region

In a classification defined by parity, seven combined points were all that came between the Morgan Trojans and a 3A three-peat in football.

After winning the title in 2019 in an 8-0 slugfest, Morgan got the receiving end of inspired runs to the title from Juab in 2020 and Grantsville last year, both wins coming by less than a touchdown. Including the Trojans themselves, Grantsville’s title last year marked the fourth consecutive championship in 3A where the victor was a team that had not won a title in over 20 years. (Summit Academy’s championship in 2018 was the first in school history.)

With four appearances in the last five title games, Morgan’s expectations are high as a wealth of experience returns to keep it at the top of the projections in the tough-as-nails region that is the 3A North.

Morgan doesn’t return quite as many starters as some of its opponents, but where physicality and toughness typically dictate the top dogs in 3A, the Trojans’ four returning starters on the offensive line will be well prepared to keep senior quarterback Nick Despain on his feet and leave hungry defenses unfed.

“Having that many come back on the line, it should be one of our strongest points,” Morgan coach Jared Barlow said. “Multiple guys have been multi-year starters, so having them come back is of great value.”

Five starters return on the defensive side of the ball, including three-year starter Gunnar Lish, who Barlow expects to lead the defense from his spot in the secondary.

Three of last year’s four semifinal teams came from the 3A North, meaning there aren’t many relaxing Fridays for the Trojans, and based on their nonregion schedule featuring solid 4A squads in Bear River and Green Canyon, a road trip to Pocatello, Idaho, and a 5A matchup with Mountain View, it wouldn’t appear they asked for one.

“We try to put ourselves in a position to play some really good teams,” Barlow said. “Being in the 3A North gives us that opportunity. We try to play teams that are going to test us and try us and help us prepare for the playoffs.”

Barlow knows by experience that getting to the playoffs is the real work, and anything can happen once they get to the final game.

Grantsville’s title defense begins with seven returning starters on offense and six on defense, good enough to project a No. 2 finish in the region behind Morgan. Being defending champions for the first time since 1997 is a new feeling for the Cowboys.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re on top, but you definitely feel like you have a target on your back,” Grantsville coach Kody Byrd said. “We’re just trying to take it in stride like we have. This year’s team didn’t win anything. That was last year’s team. We still have a lot of work to earn it.”

After a tough 0-2 start, Grantsville’s defense was a nightmare for opposing teams last year, holding six straight opponents to a touchdown or less and completely shutting out three of them. There is potential to flip the script this year with three offensive linemen, three receivers and a running back (all of them seniors) returning. The intrigue will be how a new starting quarterback, senior Hunter Bell, handles being given the keys to the machine.

“It’s very promising,” Byrd said. “We have a lot of weapons, and these kids have been playing for two or three years, some of them. Our quarterback has really stepped up in the summer and played really well, so the outlook is really good.”

Juan Diego, the projected No. 3, is no stranger to contending, being only five years removed from the 2017 title run. For new head coach Ron James, the cupboards are left nearly bare, as the Soaring Eagle will be significantly less experienced than any other team in 3A, with only one returning offensive starter and three on defense. The team will have some continuity with former head coach Greg Williams managing the offense.

Union projects to finish at No. 4 and is expected to be a team on the rise with five returners on offense and six on defense.

After getting through their first year in 3A together, Ogden and Ben Lomond are projected as the region’s No. 5 and No. 6 teams, respectively.

3A North projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Morgan Trojans

2022 schedule

Head coach: Jared Barlow. Entering his third season as head coach at Morgan after posting an 17-7 record his first two seasons. He previously served as an assistant coach at Morgan for 15 years. He’s a graduate of Morgan High School and Weber State.

Coach Jared Barlow’s general outlook: Morgan is excited for another season and look forward to the competition. There are some excellent teams in 3A with a lot of good athletes, which will lead to an exciting season. We have focused on doing the things that will help prepare us for success by working hard in the weight room and developing technique and understanding of what we want to do with our scheme. We look forward to competing with all the quality programs on our schedule and in the 3A classification.

Offensive coordinator: John Millward

2021 offense: 34.9 ppg (No. 2 in 3A)

Seven returning startersSpread offense

Returning offensive starters

Cole Keele, Sr., OLTyler Buckway, Sr., OLJosh Criddle, Sr., OLCooper McGiven, Jr., OLNick Despain, Sr., QBGavin Turner, Sr., WRConnor Brown, Sr., WR

Key offensive newcomers

Payton Brooks, Sr., WRTate Nelson, Jr., WRLuke Olson, Jr., TELincoln Gilson, So., WR

Defensive coordinator: Matt Larsen

2021 defense: 13.7 ppg (No. 2 in 3A)

Five returning starters3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

Aydon Thomson, Sr., DLJimmy Savage, Sr., LBTy Wheeler, Sr., LBGunnar Lish, Sr., DBZac Nelson, Sr., DB

Key defensive newcomers

Jarron Ball, Sr., LBQuinten Farley, Sr., DBShaun Moore, Sr., DLRhett Nye, Sr., LBWill Fisher, Jr., DLBrogan Garrett, Jr., DB/WRJett Salmon, So., LBTytun Willis, Jr., LB

2. Grantsville Cowboys

2022 schedule

Head coach: Kody Byrd. Entering his sixth year as head coach at Grantsville with a 40-19 record in his first five seasons, including a state title in 2021. He’s a graduate of Granite High School and Occidental College in California.

Coach Kody Byrd’s general outlook: We have to replace some key spots from our championship team but we feel we have the players to do just that. We are going to be explosive at the skill positions and have a lot of experience at both the offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive coordinator: Josh McMorris

2021 offense: 25.9 ppg (No. 4 in 3A)

Seven returning startersSpread Hybrid offense

Returning offensive starters

Gabe Mouritsen, Sr., RBEthan Rainer, Sr., WRDillen Richardson, Sr., WRParker Williams, Sr., WRDevon Saunders, Sr., OLHazen Atkinson, Sr., OLSeth Richards, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

Hunter Bell, Sr., QBMatthew Harris, Jr., WRCache Cooper, Sr., WR

Defensive coordinator: Danny Warren

Grantsville defense: 9.2 ppg (No. 1 in 3A).

Six returning starters4-2-5 defense

Returning defensive starters

Eli Mondragon, Sr., FSHayden Hall, Jr., CBEthan Rainer, Sr., CBDillen Richardson, Sr. LBGabe Mouritsen, Sr., LBDrake Hall, Sr., LBIka Toutai, Sr., DT

Key defensive newcomers

Lee Maile, So., WSFoa Maile, Sr., DL

3. Juan Diego Soaring Eagle

2022 schedule

Head coach: Ron James. With 30 years of professional and college coaching experience, Ron James takes over as head coach for the Soaring Eagle after serving as an assistant the past two years.

Coach Ron James’ general outlook: As a team with few retuning starters from last year this will be a rebuilding process for our football program. We are very excited about the young talent on the team and anxious to see how it all comes together over the course of the season.

Offensive coordinator: Greg Williams

2021 offense: 38.3 ppg (No. 1 in 3A)

One returning starterVeer offense

Returning offensive starters

Key offensive newcomers

Jaxon Green, Sr., RBHayden Mezenen, So., QBEtu Kaumatule, Sr., RB

Defensive coordinator: Ron James

2021 defense: 22.9 ppg (No. 4 in 3A)

Three returning starters4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Juan Calata, Sr., CBSteffon Osterberg, Sr., SEtu Kaumatule, Sr., LB

Key defensive newcomers

Julian Hernandez, Sr., DBDalan Kennedy, Sr., DLColby Bryant, Sr., DL

4. Ogden Tigers

2022 schedule

Head coach: Erik Thompson. Entering his sixth season as head coach at Ogden, where his teams own a 23-33 record the past five years. Prior to that he was the head coach at Northridge for 13 seasons from 2004 to 2016, finishing with a 79-60 record. He’s a graduate of Roy High School and Mesa State.

Coach Erik Thompson’s general outlook: We are excited for the upcoming season to play the greatest game with our rrothers. Numerous unfortunate injuries last year led to many returners this year with experience. We will have outstanding special teams with all-state returners at kicker, punter and kick returner. We have great senior leadership and kids that will fight to the finish.

Offensive coordinator: Erik Thompson

2021 offense: 22.4 ppg (No. 6 in 3A)

Five returning startersMultiple wing T/spread mix

Returning offensive starters

Chino Furniss, Sr., QBChet Colvin, Sr., RBKire Thompson, Jr., WRBraxten Shobe, Sr., OLJoe Garcia, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

Lincoln Barnes, Jr., TEKolton Rich, Jr., CStockton Marriott, Jr., WRMakei Hill, Sr., RBMax Trujillo, Jr., FB

Defensive coordinator: Terry Larsen

2021 defense: 28.2 ppg (No. 10 in 3A)

Seven returning starters4-2-5 & 3-4 mix defense

Returning defensive starters

Alberto Moreno, Sr., DTSean Garceau, Sr., DLBraxten Shobe, Sr., DEMakei Hill, Sr., SSAdam Wilson, Sr., DB/KLucas Heiner, Jr., LBZack Richards, Jr., CB

Key defensive newcomers

Max Jarnigan, Sr., DEEduardo Contreras, So., DTCarter Rasmussen, Jr., LBAdrian Salazar, Sr., CBKale Adams, Jr., FS

5. Union Cougars

2022 schedule

Head coach: Matt Labrum. Entering his 11th season as head coach at his alma mater, where his teams have recorded a 47-63 record over that span. Prior to that he was the head coach at Parowan from 2007 to 2011, where his teams posted a 17-35 record. He’s a graduate of Southern Utah University.

Coach Matt Labrum’s general outlook: Excited for the opportunity to compete this upcoming season, we look forward to a competitive and exciting year.

Offensive coordinator: Cameron Shumway

2021 offense: 20.9 ppg (No. 7 in 3A)

Five returning startersSpread offense

Returning offensive starters

Alec Labrum, Sr., WRJackson Rasmussen, Sr., QBJustin Gillman, Sr., TEKolby Winterton, Sr., OLTracer Schmitt, Sr., RB/WR

Key offensive newcomers

Kenyon Rook, Jr., OLJaxtyn Jacobson, Sr., WRStetsyn Turner, Jr., OLGideon Owen, So., OL

Defensive coordinator: Matt Labrum

2021 defense: 27.7 ppg (No. 9 in 3A)

Six returning starters3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

Kolby Winterton, Sr., DLJustin Gillman, Sr., LBTracer Schmitt, Sr., DBMaddux Russell, Sr., DBJackson Rasmussen, Sr., DBTrevin Davis, Jr., DL

Key defensive newcomers

Kyson Vanderlinden, Sr., LBAlec Labrum, Sr., DBCrew Iverson, Jr., DBKalani Palei, So., LB/DLWill Gamble, Jr., LB

6. Ben Lomond Scots

2022 schedule

Head coach: Lyndon Johnson. Entering his fourth season as Ben Lomond’s head coach after posting a 5-28 record the past three years. He’s a graduate of Rich High School and Weber State. Johnson’s previous head coaching experience all came on the hardcourt as he spent 15 combined years as head coach at Roy, Brighton and Northridge.

Coach Lyndon Johnson’s general outlook: We were really young in 2021, and have many starters back. We have four of five offensive lineman returning, and many quality skill kids. On defense we return seven starters and will be much improved. Our depth is improving and our overall team strength. We feel like in the fourth year of the program that we are improving and will start to see that improvement on the field in 2022.

Offensive coordinator: Nate Tuatagaloa

2021 offense: 8.2 ppg (No. 12 in 3A)

Six returning startersMultiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

Davian Munoz, Jr., WRJaxon Watson, Jr., WRHunter Christensen, Jr., WREaston Jacobsen, Sr., OTShedon Hawks, Sr., CMiguel Santos, Jr., OTAlonzo Flores, Sr., OG

Key offensive newcomers

Raymond Real, Sr., OGAunese Tuatagaloa, Jr., WRManase Tuatagaloa, Fr., QBCharlie Thornblad, Jr., RB

Defensive coordinator: Lyndon Johnson

2021 defense: 39.5 ppg (No. 12 in 3A)

Seven returning starters3-3-5 stack defense

Returning defensive starters

Aunese Tuatagaloa, Jr., DBE’Angelo Nunez, Sr., LBHaidyn Burdette, Jr., LBLuke Wharton, Jr., DEMiguel Santos, Jr., DEDavian Munoz, Jr., SS

Key defensive newcomers

Shedon Hawks, Sr., NTRaymond Real, Sr., NTJaxon Watson, Jr., DBHunter Christensen, Jr., FSBraedon Gill, Jr., SS

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